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McWay Falls Big Sur California

Big Sur is a magical place and quite possibly my most favorite spot in the US. From the first time I set eyes on Big Sur, I knew it was somewhere I would always want to come back to. On our way up to French Laundry, I convinced Jacob to make a stop at McWay Falls, one of the iconic landmarks of Big Sur. We spent the evening reading and waiting for the sunset.

We didn’t do much exploring east of the highway, but on the westside you can find the remains of houses that were there in the 20s. The owners eventually donated the land naming the park Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Can you imagine having a view like this from your house? Now that’s my dream house!

West Coast Roadtrip to Mcway Falls Big Sur California - 80 ft waterfall that flows into the ocean // localadventurer.comPin
Mcway Waterfall Trail - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPinMcway Waterfall Trail - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPin
Mcway Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPinJulia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Mcway Falls Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPinMcWay Falls - an 80 ft waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur California // localadventurer.comPinMcway Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPin

The 30 foot waterfall is unique in that it’s one of only two tidefalls in the region (the other is Alamere Falls) – a waterfall that flows directly into the ocean. Originally it cascaded directly into the ocean at all times, but after a 1983 fire and 1985 landslides, the landscape was altered forming an inaccessible beach and the waterfall now meets the ocean only when the tide is in. You can tell that people have found their way down to the beach, and you can access it via boat, but they highly recommend not visiting the beach as the cliffs are unstable and to preserve the environment.

Mcway Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur California USA // localadventurer.comPinMcWay Falls - an 80 ft waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur California // localadventurer.comPin
McWay Falls - an 80 ft waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur California // localadventurer.comPin

McWay Falls
Hwy 1 Big Sur CA 93920


  • Directions: On the PCH, it’s across from the large signs for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
  • Parking: Park along the highway for free or pull into their parking lot, which is self paid.
  • Trails: East of the PCH you can find a short trail to Canyon Trail Falls and also the Pelton Wheel, which lies on McWay Creek. There are signs that tell you more about the history.
  • Camping: They have a few campsites right across from the viewpoint. Make reservations here.
  • Wear layers! It was warm in the afternoon but got chilly later on.
  • What’s Nearby: Check out See Monterey for more information on the entire Monterey Peninsula.

Have you ever been to Big Sur? Where is your favorite place?

xoxo estherJacob
McWay Falls - an 80 ft waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur California // localadventurer.comPin

This Post Has 71 Comments

  1. Camesha

    Oh this is a must do. We have been making our rounds through California. Still so many great places to visit. I love living here!

    1. I know! California really does have it all! :) We lived in LA for a year, and we didn’t even get to eat everything I wanted to eat.

  2. I drove up the coast a few years ago with my husband, and it’s honestly one of the best things we ever did! I’m looking forward to going back to Big Sur soon!

  3. Hsiao-Ting

    i love big sur! we rented a house there for the weekend and it was amazing! we should do that one day!

  4. Raewyn Smith

    OMGOSH! That is gorgeous! I’ve driven Big Sur and had NO IDEA! Also, it makes me giggle that you call it THE PCH because we all just call it PCH, but call all of our other freeways and highways “the ____”

    1. Whaa? You need to stop by!! haha yeah I changed after moving to LA… also I love the californians on SNL. we should all get together to watch it!

      1. Raewyn Smith

        hahaha yes! I love that episode!!! It was very confusing in other states when they said “Take 315” and I’d be over there like “is that a bus line or a freeway or what?”

  5. Carly Anderson

    These photos are so beautiful! The water looks so gorgeous!

  6. Iris Zhou

    Your photos are stunning! Love the waterfall; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a waterfall that doesn’t end in a pool of water! So cool. :)

  7. These photos are beautiful! I have probably driven by these a billion times and never stopped but I’ve always wanted to. I’m going to make it a point to see them now !

  8. Erika

    Wow, those photos are GORGEOUS. Unreal!

      1. Erika

        Haha, I love your nudges to move out west. I’m kind of over California since I grew up there and it just isn’t exciting to me… but other parts of the west — including the Southwest — really appeal to me! :)

  9. Kristine Foley

    It looks magical! Adding it to our ever expanding list! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Mia! :) You should see it for yourself one day! I mean it when I say photos can’t even capture the beauty :)

  10. Ashley

    So pretty! Definitely on my must see list next time I go to CA

  11. Sarah

    I love the big sur the first time I visited the area when I was 17 I decided it was probably going to be one of my favourite places ever

    1. It really is so beautiful. Ever since I first visited.. I couldn’t forget it. :) Glad we’re on the same page

  12. Jordan

    YES, I love Big Sur, We went camping there last near, and it was the best! We’ll honestly probably plan a trip there again in the next month or so. Thanks for the inspo!! You guys are amazing.

    1. Thanks so much for reading Jordan. Where did you go camping? It’s so beautiful there. :) Let me know about your next trip!

  13. Michelle

    Wow! Now I have to go see this…:)

    1. :) I hope you visit soon! Seriously photos can’t justify how beautiful this place is. You have to see for yourself!

  14. Justina

    That looks absolutely amazing. I’ve never been to CA but always wanted to!

    1. It really is… sometimes when they say west coast is the best coast.. I believe it. Even though I claim to be an east coast / southern girl :)

  15. Lissa Cole

    Beautiful photos! I love Big Sur and every time I see photos of California I miss it even more. While I called it home growing up I am sad to say I may possibly never call it home again. You couldn’t have captured the area any better.

    1. Thank you so much Lissa. I guess we all move on. We lived in LA for a year last year.. but could never feel quite comfortable enough to call it home. It truly was beautiful.. but just not “homey” :)

  16. Katreena Short

    This place looks so beautiful! If I ever get the chance to go to California again I must go there!

    Excellent job on the photos btw!


    1. Thank you Katreena! :) I hope you get to see it for yourself. This is always at the top of my list whenever we’re in either LA or SF.

  17. Hima

    So we live about 2-2.5 hours from Big Sur, but we’ve NEVER been! I’ve been trying to get this to happen this entire summer, but so far, it’s a no go. At least I can live vicariously through you? ;)

    xo, Hima

    Hima Hearts

    1. WHAT?? you have to go!!! I don’t usually like to drive on my own.. so I’ll keep pestering Jacob until he gives in. haha :) It was a bit out of the way on our road trip.. but we’re both glad we stopped!

  18. Brooklyn

    Gorgeous gorgeous pictures!

  19. Camille

    Gorgeous pics!

  20. Shipra Taneja

    ZOMG! That last picture – paradise!! Beautiful pictures! <3

  21. Kelsey

    we loved passing this on our way down the coast to LA! you got some amazing shots!

  22. Your pictures are seriously amazing!!!! OMG I want to go there so bad now. I am obsessed with your pictures. Great post sounds like it was amazing time.

  23. Lauren

    These pictures!! I need to take the drive one of these weekends! Also – did you eat at French Laundry?? I need details!

    1. Thank you Lauren! Yes we did! :) The French Laundry post is linked and should be pretty detailed on our experience, the food, how to get reservations, etc. Have you been?

      1. Lauren

        It’s always been on the back burner if we wanted to really go for it and try to get a reservation. Honestly, I don’t think it would be totally worth it in my opinion for the food portion. I think that I would mostly like it for the experience. But goodness, at least $600 for my husband and I to eat together. I would definitely have to play baller for the day and not let the cost get to me. Your pictures were fantastic and it does look tempting!

  24. Amy

    I am in love.
    in awe.
    these are stunning – what a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place

    1. Thanks M! :) Man.. I feel like you are going to love it in Cali! I actually want to move back.. but maybe try out norcal instead.

  25. Susan B

    Stunning pics!! I have been to Pfeiffer Beach and love the purple sand but now I want to go to McWay Falls!

    1. Thanks so much Susan! :) We went to Pfeiffer Beach another time also and it was beautiful! SUUUPER windy though

  26. Shannon Kennedy

    So gorgeous! When M and I went up to Monterey we drove this route but I didn’t know about McWay Falls. I wish I did. I adore the last photo on this post!

  27. Emily

    I just did the iconic road trip from Northern to Central California on PCH and passed through Big Sur but didn’t get a chance to explore. The drive alone was breathtaking. Now I know I need to go back!!

    1. The drive is so beautiful too! We did parts of it.. and I kept wanting to pull over and stop every five minutes! :)

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